Sunday, March 3, 2024

Pakistan elections: PTI-independents maintain lead, Sharif seeks alliance lacking majority

With the final results unclear, Pakistan elections enter a phase of bargain and deal-making.

As of Friday evening, the election commission had announced results for more than half of the National Assembly seats.

Independent candidates loyal to the jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan maintain the lead amid a heavy crackdown on their party (PTI) and poll rigging across the country.

According to the data given by Geo News, Imran Khan’s PTI-backed candidates lead by winning 95 seats so far, while Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N has won a total of 74 seats and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s  PPP has won 54 seats. 

In provincial assemblies, Nawaz Sharif’s party leads in Punjab, while Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s party tops the list in Sindh and PTI-independents gain upper hand in KP province.

All eyes on coalition

Despite his party trailing, Nawaz Sharif declared victory claiming to be “the single-largest” in the country.

“Whoever has got the mandate, whether independents or parties, we respect the mandate they have got. We invite them to sit with us and help this wounded nation get back on its feet,” he said addressing a large crowd.

Bilawal Bhutto also expressed his willingness to engage in talks to form a coalition government.

Both the parties now have an eye on successful independent candidates backed by Imran Khan’s PTI.

Sources suggest that they might soon have a conversation with Khan.

General Syed Asim Munir, the army chief of Pakistan repeated the words of Sharif, coated with a concern against ‘anarchy and polarisation’. 

He asked parties and leaders to sit together and find a solution for the political uncertainty faced by the country.

Meanwhile, the United States, Britain and the European Union have expressed doubts about Pakistan’s electoral process, seeking a probe into the alleged irregularities.

Pakistan foreign ministry responded to the comments and said: 

“We are surprised by the negative tone of some of these statements, which neither take into account the complexity of the electoral process, nor acknowledge the free and enthusiastic exercise of the right to vote by tens of millions of Pakistanis.” 

Imran Khan’s ‘AI address

However, Imran Khan addressed his followers through an AI-generated  audio-visual message, to reject Sharif’s claim to victory and congratulate his supporters.

“I trusted that you all would come out to vote – and you honoured that trust and your massive turnout has shocked everyone,” the message said.

Khan said that he would not accept Sharif’s claim because he couldn’t gain people’s mandate and there had been malpractices like rigging in the polling centres.

People stand against odds

At the same time,  Islamabad-based political analyst Aasma Wadud told Al Jazeera that the people of Pakistan have shown that they are ready for democracy by voting against a “dynastic political system”.

“If you look at the big paradigm, they have voted against these parties who had leadership outside in the field, who had a party symbol, ” she said referring to PTI’s lead.

“Now the establishment has to prove through their conduct that they are ready for democracy in its true colours or not,” she added.

Indian born Swedish academic and writer Ashok Swain, currently a professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, applauded Pakistani voters who defied the regime to vote their will against odds.

‘I wish Indian, Bangladeshi voters were as brave as Pakistani voters,’ he wrote on X.

According to an Al Jazeera survey, the voter turnout nationwide stands at about 43.4 percent, which is lower as compared to 2018, which was 51.1 percent.

Several Imran Khan-affiliated independent candidates claimed they had won by a clear margin but accused the authorities of manipulating the results.

As they are now challenging the results in front of the judiciary, the courts might issue a stay on the earlier declared results of constituencies under suspicion.

If that happens, the revised results will be declared after reviewing digitally stored polling documents (form 45s) under judicial supervision.

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